New School On The Block

Next up in our series of new city schools is The Goddard
on the Upper West Side. This September, Bill Swan and Maria
Conti, Manhattan parents who have endured the preschool admissions process, are
opening their doors. Swan, along with Goddard Systems CEO Joseph Schumacher,
recently chatted with
New York Family and shared insights into what sets
these schools apart from the rest.

Why Goddard?

Bill Swan: One of the aspects of the Goddard model
that attracted us was the involvement of the owner. The Goddard model is that
the owners are present on a daily basis. The Education Director is therefore
freed up to be in the classroom with the teachers, monitoring, coaching, making
sure the model is followed and dealing with special issues with children. Her
devotion is specifically and 100% to the educational aspect of the program, and
not caught in the administration aspects. That’s unique to The Goddard School.

Joseph Schumacher: We want to present a high quality
childcare alternative owned by members of the community. We think that gives us
the benefit of having a locally-owned school operated by a member of the
community but with all the advantages of a large corporation such as we are.
What we have is a very solid core which is nearly identical across the country.
Outside of that core there is a lot of opportunity for flexibility and
creativity for the franchisee.

Curriculum Vitae

Bill Swan: I’m a clinical psychologist, Ph.D. I did
work as an Associate Dean, but the most immediate, direct relevant experience
is that I ran my own consulting business for over 20 years. I have the
entrepreneurial background, business management background and awareness of the
educational world.

Maria [Conti] has an MBA and a Masters in counseling. We
each had been moving in separate spheres, but this enterprise is going to bring
us together. We both love children; we have our own child, a seven-year-old
daughter. We both went through the preschool process ourselves not long ago.

New School In The City

Bill Swan: The impetus for opening up a preschool
started with touring our child through a number of them in Manhattan. There is
a relentlessness of that process. As we went through the process there are a
number of fine, wonderful, strong schools out there, but I did notice that some
didn’t seem to care that much about the parents schedule or special
circumstances or even bother to have the basic customer service skills that you
would think would be present in a business.

Joseph Schumacher: Our quality assurance is the
foundation of what we do—health, safety and security. Once we have those
standards, there is great opportunity for creativity and flexibility by the
individual franchisee. Things like…what we call enrichment programs, which are
programs in addition to the standard curriculum—yoga, sign language, second
language, and fitness, and things of that nature.

Bill Swan: The four and five-year-olds have smart
boards, reminiscent of CSI, where they move things around on the glass in front
of them. The children can draw on them, touch what they drew, move it to
another part of the screen, and combine it with what another child did. It’s a
fabulous opportunity to engage children in something interesting and have them
work together on a project.

School Philosophy

Joseph Schumacher: Our program is based on [Jean]
Piaget and its contextual learning, playful learning. Our students are so very
different, and we really embrace all the differences. A typical Goddard student
is a child that’s interested in learning and having fun. The Goddard teacher
has a base education, a love of teaching, and real intellectual curiosity. All
the lesson plans are teacher prepared and that provides a lot of flexibility in
the event, for instance, you’re doing a lesson plan about spiders and there’s a
thunderstorm outside that catches the kids’ attention. You’re not locked in to
staying with spiders. Kids learn best in what their most interested in at the

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